Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

April 12, 2012

Navajo government hires firm to push through Navajo and Hopi water rights theft bill

Protesters crowd politicians in Tuba City
Photo Outta Your Backpack Media
Indigenous Action

Navajo government hires aggressive pro-mining firm to push through water rights theft bill

By Brenda Norrell

Censored News

French translation:

The Navajo Nation has hired an aggressive pro-mining firm to push through the theft of Navajo and Hopi water rights for the benefit of non-Indians in Arizona. The scheme would rob Navajos and Hopis of water rights to the Little Colorado River.

Klee Benally, Navajo, said that Navajo President Ben Shelly and the tribal government are using the peoples money to hire the firm, while disposing of their water rights to the Little Colorado River for future generations.

"Aside from the serious concerns with the impacts of the water settlement this action has asserted that the Navajo Nation leadership does not care what the Dine' people think," Benally said.

"How can the Shelly administration on one hand say that they are going to listen to the people's concerns and schedule public forums, and on the other hand hire an aggressive lobbying group to 'secure Congressional approval?'"

"What's the point of these public forums then? To affirm a foregone conclusion? Not only are they supporting the settlement, they are going to spend our money to get it approved. To make matters worse and to clarify that Shelly administration doesn't care what Dine' people say, Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber and Schreck is in bed with the very energy companies that the settlement would benefit."

The Legal Times Blog reports: "Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck has notified Congress it is lobbying for the Navajo Nation on legislation that would settle water rights claims of the southwestern tribe.

"The firm has deployed shareholder David Bernhardt, policy director Elizabeth Gore and of counsel Ryan Smith to advocate on the Navajo-Hopi Little Colorado River Water Rights Settlement Act, according to a lobbying registration report Brownstein filed last week. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Benjamin Quayle (R-Ariz.) introduced the legislation last month."

"Navajo Nation President Ben Shelly has commended McCain for introducing the bill and has pledged to work with Congress to pass the measure," Legal Times reports.

Arizona is increasingly desperate for water downstream, as is the Navajo Generating Station, operated by the Salt River Project, and located on Navajoland. It is one of the dirtiest coal-fired power plants in the US. It uses coal from Peabody Coal mining on Black Mesa.

American Indians are guaranteed expansive water rights for their use under the Winters Doctrine.

The water rights scheme would erase those rights.

The lobying firm, Brownstein, Hyatt, Farber and Schreck,  co-chairs the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force."

Have a look at their client list as well:

Peabody and SRP are both part of ALEC.

Additionally interesting to find that Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, LLP
is part of the Arizona Mining Association:

ALEC is not a lobby; it is not a front group. It is much more powerful than that. Through ALEC, behind closed doors, corporations hand state legislators the changes to the law they desire that directly benefit their bottom line. Along with legislators, corporations have membership in ALEC. Corporations sit on all nine ALEC task forces and vote with legislators to approve “model” bills. They have their own corporate governing board which meets jointly with the legislative board. (ALEC says that corporations do not vote on the board.) They fund almost all of ALEC's operations. Participating legislators, overwhelmingly conservative Republicans, then bring those proposals home and introduce them in statehouses across the land as their own brilliant ideas and important public policy innovations—without disclosing that corporations crafted and voted on the bills. ALEC boasts that it has over 1,000 of these bills introduced by legislative members every year, with one in every five of them enacted into law. ALEC describes itself as a “unique,” “unparalleled” and “unmatched” organization. It might be right. It is as if a state legislature had been reconstituted, yet corporations had pushed the people out the door. Learn more at

Read more from Blog of Legal Times: Brownstein Hyatt Lobbying for Navajo Nation on Water Rights

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